Posted January 4th 2011 at 11:55 am by
in Waste Management Strategies in Coastal Nicaragua

Designing a Waste Management Strategy in Coastal Nicaragua

Waste and Recycling in NicaraguaA man sorts waste in Nicaragua. Photo by Libby McDonald.

A team of seven MIT students from various disciplines will assemble on Nicaragua on January 7th to conduct a waste management analysis for five municipalities in the Region Autonoma del Atlantic Sur (RAAS).  The five municipalities include Bluefields, Rama, Pearl Lagoon, Kukra Hill, and Corn Island.  CoLab’s staff and project leader Libby McDonald, along with three graduate students, have already arrived.

The MIT group and the representatives from the municipality in Nicaragua have been preparing for this analysis for months.  They have met in-person and over the phone to design a useful project.  The students formed a study group, completed a set of readings and went on field trips to local recycling facilities and other relevant waste management businesses.

While in Nicaragua this month, the students will:

map the current system for managing waste and sanitation;

conduct a waste sort to identify the garbage composition;

create a recycling route for recycled waste to be transported from all five municipalities incorporated in the overall RAAS Waste and Recycling Program to brokers in Managua;

identify and determine best training methods for assisting in the creation of collection, recycling, composting, and waste-to-energy enterprises; and

design an awareness campaign so that the sorting of garbage can occur at the household level.


The project goal is to support a collaboration between five municipalities in the design of a sustainable approach to waste management and recycling that simultaneously decreases green house gas emissions and generates income through enterprise development.

Reading list:

Week One / October 18th
(Who are the people that inhabit the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua?)

Guest speaker via Skype: Becky Buell, former senior manager at Oxfam in Nicaragua

Deare, Carmen Diana. Rural Social Movements in Latin America: Organizing for Sustainable Livelihoods.

Vilas, Carlos M., Butler, Judy (translator). The Sandinista Revolution: National Liberation and Social Transformation in Central America.

Bella, Gioconda. The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War.

“The Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua: Development and Autonomy.” Journal of Latin American Studies, Peter Sollis, January, 1989.

Week Two / October 25th
(What is the history and culture of the RAAS?)

Guest speaker via Skype: Galio Gurdian, Program Analyst for the UNDP based in Nicaragua

Readings from Brunnegger, Sandra (2007). From Conflict to Autonomy in Nicaragua: Lessons Learnt. London: Minority Rights Group International. The Minority Rights Group has done much work on the issues of indigenous groups in the region.

UNDP’s Human Development Report on the Atlantic Coast.  A special report on the region, based on the UNDP’s global report. [1]

Week Three
(Libby McDonald traveled to Nicaragua to visit the site and meet with local partners; the group did not convene.)

Week Four / November 8th
(What are some of the general characteristics of waste management and recycling in the Global South?)

Guest speaker via Skype: Martin Medina, the Senior Policy Researcher at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies

Manual on Municipal Solid Waste Integrated Management in Latin American and Caribbean Cities. José Henrique Penido Monteiro …[et al]; updated and adapted by Gilson Leite Mansur and José Henrique Penido Monteiro.

Martin, Medina.  “Globalization, Development, and Municipal Solid Waste, Management in Third World Cities.”

Week Five / November 15th
(What is the impact of waste picking on the environment and how has it evolved worldwide?)

Guest speaker via Skype: Lakshmi Narayan, General Secretary of the Pune, India waste picking union, Kagad kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat.

Medina, Martin, The World’s Scavengers: Salvaging for Sustainable Consumption and Production.

Samson, Melanie, Refusing to be Cast Aside: Waste Pickers Organizing Around the World.

Medina, Martin. 2005. “Waste Picker Cooperatives in Developing Countries.” Paper prepared for WIEGO/ Cornell/ SEWA Conference on Membership-Based Organizations of the Poor, Ahmedabad, India, January 2005.

Dias, Sonia Maria. “Integrating Waste Pickers for Sustainable Recycling. Superintendency of Public Cleansing: Planning for Sustainable Integrated Solid Waste Management,” CWG (spell out) Workshop, 2000.

Wilson, David C., Velis, Costas, Cheeseman, Chris.  “Role of Informal Sector Recycling in Waste Management in Developing Countries, 2006.

Achankeng, Eric. “Globalization, Urbanization and Municipal Solid Waste Management in Africa,” 2003.

Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group. “Cooling Agents: An Analysis of Climate Change Mitigation by the Informal Recycling Sector in India,” 2009.

Week Six / November 22nd
(What are the defining characteristics of the rapidly growing movement of waste picking in the Global South?)

Medina, Martin.  “Scavenger Cooperatives in Asia and Latin America; El Colegio de la Frontera Norte

Carrasco, Christine H. “Waste Pickers, Scavengers or Catadores: Conceptualizing “ASMARE” as a Comprehensive and Health Promoting Community Initiative in Brazil,” 2009.

Medina, Martin. “Informal Trans-border Recycling on the U.S.-Mexico Border: The Cartoneros of Nuevo Laredo. (Delivered at the 1998 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, 1998).

Cozzensa da Silva, Marcelo.  “Anaclaudia Gastal Fassa.”

Kriebel, David.  “Minor Psychiatric Disorders Among Brazilian Ragpickers: A Cross-Sectional Study.”

Medina, Martin. “Serving the Unserved: Informal Refuse Collection in Mexico,” 2005.

Week Seven / November 29th
(What are the potential technologies and small business models for enterprise development around waste and recycling in the developing world?)

Guest speaker via Skype: Jyoti Lakspar, from a women’s collective running a biodigester in Mumbai

Fieldtrips to: Vegiwatt, Green Grease Monkey, IST Energy, Save that Stuff, Northeast Biodiesel.

Research enterprise models via Internet searches and Skype calls to partner waste picker unions in Pune, India, Bogota, Sao Paulo, and Mumbai.  Each student was assigned two to three waste picking groups to contact and investigate enterprise models implemented within cooperatives.

Week Eight / December 6th

Each student came prepared to discuss three-four enterprise models, including a discussion of technology and business plans.

Recommended websites: (Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group) (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)) (Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)) (Stop Trashing the Climate)

This post is part of the Designing a Waste Management Strategy in Coastal Nicaragua series.

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